Blitz on laundering a boost to Dail's coffers
Revenue officers have shut down 134 filling stations suspected of selling diesel that had been laundered by rogue republicans along the border.
The network of outlets was set up by the fraudsters who controlled the multi-million-pound racket from their border bases.
But the shutdown operation, combined with the discovery of a number of key laundering plants in the Republic, has badly hit the gangsters and forced most of them to switch to other criminal activities.
The measures have, meanwhile, brought an unexpectedly big boost to the exchequer in the Republic.
It resulted in a rise of around €200m in excise receipts for diesel engine road vehicles in 2014, compared with the previous year.
And this year's windfall is reckoned to come close to €500m because of the significant introduction of a new marker for green diesel last April. The bulk of the extra money for the Irish exchequer is believed to have emanated from the collapse in the laundered diesel market.
In the latest Revenue operation in Co Cavan on Tuesday, officers seized more than 4,400 litres of laundered diesel at a filling station.
Two oil tankers and 3,900 litres of untaxed kerosene were also seized at the same premises.
The crackdown on fuel laundering, which is currently spearheaded by the Irish Revenue and Customs enforcement manager in the border region, Pat Gralton, has delivered the biggest blow so far to the pockets of the launderers.
These include the families of a number of former Provisional IRA leaders based in the Louth-south Armagh area since the trade became a huge money spinner for terrorists and other criminals.
Mr Gralton said: "We are monitoring the whole supply chain for revenue evasion and have had a series of successes against targeted figures.
"This is not simply a revenue collecting exercise.
"It is also helping legitimate traders and filling station outlets, who were finding it difficult to survive because they were being undercut at the pumps by the illegal operators."
Many legitimate traders, particularly along the border and in surrounding counties, were put out of business during the recession because they could not compete.
Since fuel laundering was prioritised as the top target for the Revenue in the border region in 2011, a number of initiatives have been launched.
They include tighter controls and monthly checks on the amounts of oil being purchased and sold by traders, and an effective licensing system.